No hope for Africa: Next generation of leaders learnt from the best, could yet be the worst

By Phillemon Sithole

Kenya’s former Director of Anticorruption Commission, Prof Lumumba, warns that the younger generation is even more dangerous to Africa because they have learned from the older generation. Structures such as Student Representative Councils (SRCs) at universities and party Youth Leagues, albeit their noble intent and potentially much more role as catalysts and agents of change, do provide a fertile environment for passing corruption appetite from the older generation to the younger generation.

So you basically have thieves in waiting to take over from the older generation. The young thieves often criticise the older thieves of being corrupt. It looks and sounds noble on the surface but paradoxically the latent intent is to get a chance to take over and ‘Alooter Continua’. Some are the flotsam who envy the eaters because they themselves do not have the opportunity to eat or have been kicked off the eating table.

The East African Institute in Kenya reported in their survey that over 50 percent of Kenya’s youth surveyed did not see anything wrong with corruption as long as you are not caught, 47 percent admire those who ‘hook or crook’ and 30 percent sees corruption as profitable. When the youth sees corruption as acceptable, a nation should be concerned, for the future of any nation is its youth. This is not surprising considering how seemingly people flourish through corrupt means and conspicuously parade their loots without shame.

As much as we cry the mantra of youth leadership in Africa, we should however be cautious with our calls for they may not necessarily change the course. SRCs in South Africa for example, are run on party political lines and the competition is fierce, sometimes violent. The stakes are high, suggesting that there is a lot at stake. If you have been close enough to the SRC or members thereof at university, you will understand their jubilation when it comes to organising bashes and other events that involve financial transactions.

There are ‘kick backs’ involved. The level of ‘kick backs’ in SRCs explicitly suggest to us that these sort of youth structures within political parties serve as a breeding milieu for future corrupt political leaders. Instead of these structures to be used as a milieu for grooming future selfless and corruption free leaders, what we witness is a paradox. By the time these young leaders are deployed to local government up the way to national government, they have become masters at the art of corruption and we wonder why public funds are looted.

Unsurprisingly, African countries are riding the crest of wave on the Global Corruption Perception Index. The only countries below 50 are Mauritius at 45, as well as Botswana 28, Seychelles 40, Rwanda 44 and Cape Verde at 40. Whatever direction you look at in Africa, you will find a thriving corruption empire, often defended passionately by certain sections of the youth.

In Angola, you have the Futungo Inc. at the centre of which is the state oil company Sonangol currently headed by the president’s daughter Isabela Dos Santos, and Guanxi. In DRC there was Mwangachuchu Hizi International led by Mwangachuchu who was a flotsam of war and later a young Katumba led the Kabila looting empire.

In South Africa we have our own Guptagate and many other stories. With bright young leaders such as Andile Lungisa, Pule Mabe, Julius Malema all from the African National Congress Youth League and many others implicated in corruption scandals.

If we were to compile a list of young leaders implicated in corruption scandals, young leaders whom the media and indeed us branded the ‘Future of Africa’, we may as well swallow our bitter pride and accept that the future of Africa does not necessarily look bright judging by these corrupt young leaders.

Impunity bedevils the fight against corruption in Africa, according to Transparency International. Keriako Tobiko, the Director of Public Prosecutions in Kenya, says that the fastest it takes to take a corruption case through the courts is five years. In South Africa, every year the Auditor General points to endemic corruption levels in municipalities but no action is ever taken against the corrupt. Uganda’s Auditor General, Mr John Muwanga, revealed in his 2015/16 report how public funds are embezzled by public officials, looting Uganda’s public purse 2.31 billions shillings (R306.338 million). Zimbabwe lost in the region of $15billion on diamonds’ lootings, yet no one has been held accountable. The ‘Gushingo machine’ grinds on unhindered, although protests in 2016 like #ThisFlag movement shook things a bit.

In South Africa, institutions that are entrusted with fighting corruption and abuse of public office such as Public Protector are often demonised when they do their job. Worryingly, at the forefront of the demonization happened to the youth leaders from certain political parties.

Such attacks on institution/person like the Public Protector coming from young leaders are depressing and pains the grim future for South Africa, which is on a downward spiral on Global Corruption Perception Index. In Zimbabwe, Zanu-PF’s youth leader, Kudzanai Chipanga, reportedly defended the alleged looting of skills develepoment fund by Jonathan Moyo, the minister of Higher and Tertiary Education. Kudzanai Chipanga had the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission at mercy of his backlash regarding the scandal, the very unit entrusted with fighting corruption in Zimbabwe.

Afrobarometer reports that about 56% of people on the African continent thought that their governments were doing a poor job in “their efforts to fight corruption”. The perception may potentially not get any better, if we replace older generation who are corrupt with a new generation that is corrupt too. Worse, the younger generation’s corruption might have mutated for worse, since they are seemingly more educated than the older generation.

This is not suggest that young leaders in Africa must not be given a chance. However, when we make calls for young leaders to be handed the baton, we ought to be cautious and scrutinise the candidates to ensure that we are not replacing old corruption tactics with new, often mutated corruption tactics that are undetectable or law resistance like a bacteria or virus.

  • Phillemon Sithole is an MBS at the Waterford Institude of Technology in Ireland, and a political and social commentator. Article appears on Khuluma Afrika.